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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kenya up in smoke as Britain, USA, EU, UN, AU and EAC watch from a distance

The world risks loosing over 33 million people in Kenya’s post election violence that has rocked the country over the past one month. The European Union, The commonwealth and the African Union raised concerns that presidential vote tallying was deeply flawed and fell short of international standards. Even local Kenyan observers and some Electoral of Kenya officials including its chairman raised the red flag regarding the legitimacy of vote tallying before announcements were made. Many believe that the hasty swearing in of Mwai Kibaki as the President of the republic of Kenya was a sign that his camp had stolen the December vote, a move that did not go well with many Kenyans, many taking to the streets in protest. Over 800 people have already been killed and property worth billions of dollars destroyed.

Despite the rising cases of violence related deaths and destruction of property, the situation has taken an evil turn after two opposition law makers were felled by the gun within hours in the past one week. The first MP Hon. Melitus Were was killed by under mysterious circumstances in what the Kenyan police have called “normal crime”. The Second Hon David Kimutai was killed in an apparent “love triangle” according to the Kenyan Police. A group calling itself the “mungiki” claims to have executed Mr. Were and issued similar threats to journalists whose reporting appeared to be “anti government”. The invincible hand behind all the undertakings is yet to show up in a country that was once was a beacon of peace and stability in Sub Saharan Africa.

The mere talk from Britain, USA, European Union, African Union, UN and East African Community suggest that they have failed to even recognize that there is trouble in Kenya. I can tell you now, Kenya is hanging on a thread. As a journalist I expected to hear and see firm commitment through action from these institutions relating to Kenya. People are dying and a country is falling apart and all we hear is just talk through the international press. It is shocking that No word has come from Tanzania despite the fact that Local Tanzania media is awash with such headlines as “Wakenya waendelea Kumalizana” (Kenyans continue to tear each other apart ). President Kikwete is yet to utter a word ever since the country erupted in chaos. I don’t mean that it is his problem but as the closest neighbor to Kenya, just a cough would be enough to show that he deplores or suports the status quo. EAC chairman and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni quickly jetted into Kenya earlier in January saying that he was “deeply concerned” about the situation in the country. That was the last we heard from him even though there have been allegations that he had deployed troops to “help quell” the situation. Early in 2007 there was simmering tension regarding the position of Tanzania in the proposed economic integration of East Africa. Apparently, Tanzania has always viewed Kenya with suspicions and one will be forgiven to think that the country is rejoicing when the purported economic powerhouse of East Africa is going up in flames. Of late there have been a lot of Tanzanian advertisements in the international media inviting people to tour the country as “the ideal destination”.

The US Secretary of State warned of “stern action” against leaders who fail to embrace dialogue to end the current political stalemate. Britain has also joined in the fray of TALK with no action while Kenya mourns the death of its people its sober leaders and democracy.

It started with Rwanda where millions of people were brutally murdered under the watchful eye of the international community including Kenya. No one had anticipated the magnitude of the Rwanda genocide until numbers of those killed started coming in. Millions had died and the country was just a shell of what it used to be. Southern Sudan has never stabilized; Somalia was quickly erased from the world map. Zimbabwe is now a basket case. History will indeed judge us harshly because Kenya is on the way.

Other Popular Posts:
Koffi Annan's Peace Mission doomed to fail as Another Kenyan Oposition MP is killed in cold blood
Kenya's Collapse

Koffi Annan's Peace Mission doomed to fail as Another Kenyan Oposition MP is killed in cold blood

Another opposition (ODM) MP has been killed in Kenya, as violence continues over last month's disputed election. David Kimutai Too was shot dead Thursday and his body taken to Moi Teaching and Referal Hospital. The man was shot dead in the western town of Eldoret, said a spokesman for his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

He is the second ODM MP to be killed this week. The shooting of Mugabe Were in Nairobi sparked violent clashes in slums seen as opposition strongholds.

Scanty reports indicate that "he was a victim of a love triangle" involving the police who apparently shot him. Whatever the reason, a wrong message has found its way home.

More than 850 people have been killed and 250,000 have fled their homes since the disputed presidential poll.

In an earlier post, the international press had published an article citing "kenya's collapse" now that appears to be imminent as the death of another MP may not go down well with the Kenyan people especially those from the Rift Valley Province. It is a very sad day for a country that has experienced peace for the last 40 years, it has been a source of hope to many conflict ridden African countries like Somali and Southern Sudan.

It is sad that Kenyan political elites are sending political messages the wrong way pitting Kenyans against each other. Reports that terror gangs have resurfaced has raised fears in the country forcing people to flee from their homes for fear of being killed by these gangs. It is unfortunate, unforgivable, unthinkable that a political message can be sent in this way. Just how possible is it that two Mps affiliated to the opposition get killed within hours when it was very clear that the opposition had more numbers in parliament. This is crazy, it is madness and should be condemned in the strongest terms possible.

The whole world is calling for peace to prevail in Kenya but some of our leaders appear not ready to embrace peace. This is putting to jeorpady the efforts by Koffi Annan and his team to broker peace in the country. It seems an invisible hand is playing dirty games just to stall the talks. During the first day of the peace talks the government ask for more time to "consolidate their position" on the matter. The meeting was supposed to proceed today but the new developments of killing an MP are bound to further delay the search for peace in this once beloved country. I mourn for Kenyans, may be this is the price for freedom. Its deplorable that it is happening in Kenya.

Kenya's Collapse

January 31, 2008

A rigged election, ethnic violence, economic dysfunction and now a political assassination -- the crisis in Kenya has hit a sad superfecta. Worse, the politicians who loosed these forces don't look capable of reining them back in.

It's been a month since this once-placid country exploded. When incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the December 27 election, supporters of challenger Raila Odinga took to the streets. They claimed Mr. Kibaki, who had been trailing in opinion polls, stole the election through massive fraud. International observers say the vote was such a shambles that it's impossible to know who really won.

Hopes that the civic outrage at electoral fraud was a sign of democratic maturation were fast shattered. The death toll surged, with reports that police were ordered to put down the early protests with lethal force if necessary. Now human-rights groups claim the opposition has been organizing brutal attacks on members of Mr. Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe -- a charge that Mr. Odinga denies. In all, at least 850 Kenyans have been killed and more than a quarter of a million have fled their homes. Another spate of interethnic killings was triggered by the apparent assassination in Nairobi Tuesday of a moderate lawmaker aligned with Mr. Odinga.

Messrs. Kibaki and Odinga have ill-served their own people by doing little to nothing to mend the political rift -- which, in the meantime, turned into a potentially far more dangerous tribal conflict. Both politicians are to blame for the machete-wielding men and innocents burned to death in village churches, bloody episodes that are eerily reminiscent of Rwanda in 1994. Some in Kenya now wonder whether either man still wields control over his ethnic faction.

A political solution, perhaps involving a form of power-sharing until calm returns and a fresh election can be called, is a prerequisite to stopping the violence. But it will be difficult to pull off. One possibility that's been floated would have Mr. Odinga serve as Prime Minister alongside President Kibaki. But the Odinga camp may not trust Mr. Kibaki to follow through, since the President earlier reneged on a deal to make Mr. Odinga the Premier in exchange for his support in the country's 2002election.

Rerunning the election soon, or recounting the December tally, would also be highly problematic. At this point, there's little reason to believe that the loser, whether the Kibaki or the Odinga side, would accept the results. The vote itself, one Kenyan democratic activist says, would have to be either beyond reproach or result in a landslide win for one candidate. A democracy in which only large margins are respected isn't really a democracy.

Even if a political deal can be struck, the violence may not end quickly. The Luo tribe of Mr. Odinga, along with the Kalenjin and other clans, feels that the Kikuyus have kept too many of the spoils of independence and recent economic growth. Unhappiness with inequalities in wealth and land ownership are as much of a sore point as who gets political power. The two sides are forming militias -- in many cases, we're told, with the help of organized crime -- that will not necessarily be satisfied by seeing the politicians playing nice.

A lasting peace will have to include a shift away from granting power and wealth solely on the basis of tribal identity. This favoritism is a form of corruption, one of the most persistent ills across all of Africa. Rooting out such an ingrained system won't be easy. The democratic institutions that so far haven't stopped the current ethnic violence will have to be strengthened. They include an independent judiciary to review vote-fraud allegations and law enforcement that citizens respect.

Messrs. Kibaki and Odinga could best help their countrymen by finding a way to work toward these goals. Otherwise, they're merely arguing over who gets to preside over the next African tragedy.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Situation in Kenya is So Sad (Warning: Contains Very Disturbing Pictures)

There is a very grave situation in Kenya at the moment that calls for international support to end violence that has rocked the counry over the past one month.Just Yesterday, a Kenyan Lawmaker was killed fuelling further violence across the country. Business is at a standstill, Losses are being reported and many workers are stranded since they cant report to work. Another strange twist is that most workers can nolonger go to their previous places of work if they happen to be from a different tribe because of fear of being lynched or bruttaly killed. My plee to Kenyans is to stop these sensless killings that will only damage the country's reputation and hurt its economy very badly.In the two pictures, bodies of Kenyans burnt alive at Naivasha while a woman brutally murdered at her house in the same location infront of her crying child. Its hard to imagine the horror going on in the childs mind or the people viewing bodies of the violently burnt Kenyans. This a very sad year for Kenya.

Please stop the Violence.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Freedom in the World 2008: Global Freedom in Retreat (Kenya among the Worst Perfomers)

The year 2007 was marked by a notable setback for global freedom, Freedom House reported in a worldwide survey of freedom released today.

The decline in freedom, as reported in Freedom in the World 2008, an annual survey of political rights and civil liberties worldwide, was reflected in reversals in one-fifth of the world’s countries. Most pronounced in South Asia, it also reached significant levels in the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa. A substantial number of politically important countries whose declines have broad regional and global implications—including Russia, Pakistan, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria, and Venezuela—were affected. Kenya is now being pronounced in the same breath as the Lawless Somalia among other unstable countries in the world all because of the last elections that many believe was openly stolen in full glair of the media in favour of the incumbent. Kenyans have reacted angriliy with many retaliating as evidenced in the spate of violence that has rocked the once peacefull and stable East African State over the past one month.

“This year’s results show a profoundly disturbing deterioration of freedom worldwide,” said Arch Puddington, director of research at Freedom House. “A number of countries that had previously shown progress toward democracy have regressed, while none of the most influential Not Free states showed signs of improvement. As the second consecutive year that the survey has registered a global decline in political rights and civil liberties, friends of freedom worldwide have real cause for concern.”

While the profile of world freedom as measured by the number of countries designated in Freedom in the World as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free changed little during the past year, there were many negative changes within these broad categories. In all, nearly four times as many countries showed declines during the year as registered improvement.

Many of the countries that moved backward were already designated Not Free by the survey. The past year saw the intensification of an effort by authoritarian regimes -- Egypt and Pakistan are two examples -- to consolidate power through the suppression of democratic opposition, civil society, and independent media in their own societies. Especially important in carrying out this assault on freedom of association was a group of market-oriented autocracies and energy-rich dictatorships, including Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and China.

Not one of the countries that registered the lowest possible scores in the Freedom House index -- the “worst of the worst” -- exhibited signs of improvement. This represents a break from a trend formerly observable even in past years when world freedom stagnated or declined, in which progress was registered in some of the world’s most tightly controlled dictatorships.

Just as concerning, countries that had made progress towards freedom in recent years took significant steps backwards. The deterioration within Nigeria and Kenya, two of Africa’s most important countries, should be of great concern for those who had hoped that the incremental gains of recent years would continue. Two countries that had “color” revolutions in past years

While sub-Saharan Africa has made incremental if uneven progress in the last several years, 2007 saw an overall deterioration of freedom on the continent. Fifteen countries registered reversals, while six countries marked improvements. Togo moved from Not Free to Partly Free, and Mauritania was designated an electoral democracy this year. Two countries that were conflict zones, Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, showed major improvements, as did Mozambique and Rwanda. However, political manipulation of ethnic tensions and intolerance by many of the region’s leaders were important factors in the declines of a number of countries, including Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria. Mali and Niger registered declines in civil liberties, while in East Africa, Somalia’s already low score declined further. Other countries that showed declines included Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Comoros, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Madagascar, and Malawi. Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world, has monitored political rights and civil liberties around the world since 1972.

Friday, January 25, 2008

“For god’s sake, please stop the aid” … Africa?

I was moved by an old article by Ethan Zuckerman on aid to Africa that he capture during the TED conference in Tanzania Last year in which he captured views of a Kenyan economist on Aid and opportunity to Africa. Below are excerpts from the article:

Africa’s economic weakness comes from a failure to commercialize the resources and inventions of the continent, this is according to a self taught Kenyan economist, James Shikwati who is urging Africans to “stop addressing problems and start addressing African opportunities.” Famine, he tells us, is a business challenge: 200 million people are facing food shortage, and they’re a market. Malaria, with 300-500 million cases a year and $12 billion in economic loss, is an economic opportunity.

Chris Anderson references his now-legendary interview in Spiegel, reported under the title, “For god’s sake, please stop the aid“. He is “shockingly misguided, amazingly wrong,” according to Jeffrey Sachs… which makes him very popular already with some of our audience.

“How can you say you don’t have a job in Africa when there are all these opportunities?” Shikwati points to a new Kenyan business focused on indoor insecticide spraying, protecting houses from roaches and mosquitoes for six months. The cost is affordable - from 100 to 400 Kenyan shillings - and providing this service is an entrepreneurial opportunity for otherwise unemployed Kenyans.

The challenge for Africa is for businesses to move beyond their home countries and spread throughout the continent. “What’s missing is not money, but confidence.” Shikwati suggests that use culture to introduce people to business and build their confidence. He wants to “create passion amongst the youth” through business competitions and awards.

He fears there’s a “constrained vision” that Africans suffer from, a need to release the African mind. “If I eat yams, people say I’m poor - I should eat bread. That’s nonsense.” It’s the result of cultural preconception, he believes. “People are looking at African entrepreneurs as corrupt and untrustworthy
- a leader may be corrupt, but Africans are not corrupt.” To succeed, Africans need to challenge these stereotypes, internally and externally.

From the outside, Shikwati tells us, “Aid looks quite sexy. If we see a beggar on the street, we feel we should help him.” But this might not be the right decision. “If you’ve been giving us aid and have made us lose confidence in ourselves… I think you are not helping Africa.” Instead, he asks Shikwati to invest in Africa, or to allow the Africans to sell their products globally. But African companies have to step up as well. “How many indigenous African businesses are ready to tap into COMESA, a market of 400 million people? Or East African Community , a market of 100 million people.”

Shikwati warns us that “countries bring not just aid, but their companies.” If we’re not careful, we end up putting ourselves in a situation where we’re waiting for aid instead of innovating - “we need to be competing with international business”

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Man Who Would Be President

Andrew Ehrenkranz and Silvia Spring (Newsweek)

Most Kenyans can only wish they were as confident about the future as Raila Odinga appears to be. Amid the violent ethnic unrest that has killed more than 600 people in the past three weeks, the 62-year-old opposition leader seems positive that he--not Kenya's incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki--will ultimately prove to have won the country's disputed Dec. 27 elections.

"Part of the vote was for me," Odinga told NEWSWEEK last week over a home-cooked breakfast of steaming porridge and hot tea. "But part of it was against Kibaki, because he failed to unite the country. That is what I am going to do." He left the table and strolled through his sprawling Nairobi house, weighing the errors of Kibaki and his regime: "You know what the Somalis say? 'Never mistake a lion for a cat that's been rained on.' I think they mistook me for a wet cat."

Kenyans are increasingly fearful of the damage a prolonged battle for the presidency might do to their lives and their livelihoods. Odinga has vowed he's in this for "the long haul," and he's a born fighter, descended from a family of great warriors and kings. His great-grandfather became a legend in the Luo tribe for killing an elephant single-handed, and the spear the old man used now hangs proudly in a family collection. Odinga's father, a prosperous businessman and an outspoken leader in Kenya's independence movement, was the country's first vice president until he quit the government and launched an opposition party. "I've been in politics since birth," says Odinga--whose mother, as it happens, belonged to the Alego clan, just like the father of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama.

But Odinga's formative years gave him another crucial advantage: an ability to think outside the bounds of Kenya's tribal politics. He left home at 15 to attend school in East Germany and eventually returned to Kenya with a master's degree in mechanical engineering and experience of life on both sides of the Berlin Wall. His Kenyan passport allowed him to pass freely through Checkpoint Charlie, and his friends in the communist East would send him to bring back fancy watches, TVs and other forbidden luxuries from the West. He served as a translator when Louis Armstrong visited the country on an Iron Curtain tour in 1965. And yet a speech by Fidel Castro impressed Odinga so much that years later he would name his firstborn son after the Cuban dictator. "I've lived in both sides of the world," says Odinga. "I'm better placed than most people who only hear about these things in books." (Today he owns five cars, including a pearl gray Jaguar and a ruby red Hummer.)

He got to know still other sides of the world after he came back to Kenya in 1970. He shuttled between government posts and the opposition, all the while remaining a close friend to Kibaki. Odinga's life changed again in 1982, when he was jailed for nearly a decade for his alleged role in a coup plot against Kenya's then dictator, Daniel Arap Moi.

Odinga talked about those years at breakfast last week. The government sent him from one prison to another. One was in the middle of a game preserve, where an escapee would have no hope against the predators of the savannah. In another he spent weeks on end in solitary confinement. His mother died in 1984, and his guards didn't tell him until two months later. He went on a hunger strike to protest his incarceration, and at night he yelled, to let his fellow prisoners know he was still alive. "I intended for everyone to hear," he says. "I didn't want to die like a dog in there."
That kaleidoscopic past helps explain Odinga's massive popularity. Unlike many African politicians, he doesn't pander to narrow tribal interests. Instead he has aggressively courted--and won--support among all of Kenya's 40-odd tribes, visiting them, listening to their concerns and working to build a sense of national identity, beyond local and ethnic loyalties. His entourage is filled with bodyguards, drivers, cooks and cleaners across the tribal spectrum. His communications director is a member of Kibaki's dominant Kikuyu tribe, as are several prominent business leaders who have pledged long-term support.

His agenda aside, Odinga has electric charisma. "He's not so eloquent," says Naji Balalla, one of Odinga's senior advisers (a Muslim). "But he doesn't have to be. He just walks into a room and looks at you and people go crazy."

That flexibility was on display recently in Nairobi, where NEWSWEEK caught up with Odinga. It began on a Sunday when Raila appeared at the Jesus is Alive Ministries before a rapturous crowd of about 2,000 worshippers. "Kenyans saw the blatant rigging of an election," he intoned in a rolling cadence that perfectly matched the religious fervor of the crowd. "Somebody has stolen your cow. How are you going to talk to that person?" As the crowd swelled to cheer him on, the bishop draped Odinga in a white shawl, anointed his head with oil to rapturous applause and called him "president."

Still, the ongoing crisis isn't helping Odinga's popularity outside his party. Immediately after the election he attracted a vast wave of support, but U.S. officials in Kenya, unwilling to be named on such a sensitive topic, tell NEWSWEEK that the surge has ebbed since then, and they now believe that the election itself was too close to call. At this point there's considerable skepticism that Odinga can do anything more than work out a feeble power-sharing deal with Kibaki--a far cry from the vehement recount demands of early January. Odinga still visibly believes in Kenya's momentum for change. Somehow he needs to revive Kenya's faith in itself.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Leveraging on China’s Thirst to Develop Africa

By Norah Owaraga,
I recently heard a great daughter of Africa tell a story of two sisters who chose two different paths. One of them chose to take control of her destiny whilst another chose to allow others to take control of her destiny. The one that chose to take control of her destiny insisted on making her own choices, decisions and setting her own agenda. The other waited for others to give her choices, decisions and an agenda to follow. The two sisters are Asia and Africa.

More countries in both east and south Asia have progressed and are attaining the status of the so-called ‘developed’ countries that was previously the preserve of European and North American countries. China is one of those Asian countries that is successfully industrialising and successfully reducing the percentage of its citizens living below the poverty line. China is now looking towards Africa for raw materials, particularly oil, in order to sustain and further its development.

What factors have led to China’s success? China is most definitely in charge of its destiny. It is in full control when determining the terms of trade with others. China continues not only to invest in its infrastructure, but also investing in developing its human resources.

Fully aware that Europe and North America have a stronghold over the oil resources from the Arab world; it is in China’s interest, whilst using its historical connections with Africa, to focus its energies in establishing a strategic stronghold over the oil resources from black Africa. Indeed, China has already entered Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda, Angola and Somalia, amongst others.

Albeit its wealth in raw materials and all the ‘advice’ from foreign ‘experts’ (mostly European and North American) African countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, have either remained poor or gotten poorer over the years. It is reported that Nigerians were poorer in 2000 than they had been at the start of the oil boom in the early 1970s. Why? Is Africa in charge of its destiny?

In the past 50 years, Africa has oscillated from one development model to another as dictated by foreign ‘experts’. The models ranged from structural adjustment programmes to a multitude of poverty eradication strategies that are arguably promoting poverty. Corruption is rife at all levels of government. African leaders and the elite collude with foreigners to exploit Africa’s wealth for their own benefit. The list of African leaders that have amassed personal wealth from government coffers with impunity and in a heavy handed manner of brutality against the citizens of their countries is endless: Mobutu, Abacha, Bokasa, and many others.

Is China’s engagement with Africa any different from Europe’s or North America’s? Not really. China is offering an alternative bargain for Africa to choose from. However, it has the same level of priority as its competitors: Europe and North America (but significantly very low), when it comes to the development of Africa.

Some people argue that China’s trading offer to Africa may be better than Europe and North America’s. Better for whom? At the end of the day, for the development of Africa to occur, it is not the offer that really counts. What matters is what African leaders and the elite do with what Africa receives in exchange for its oil. I am sure we are all familiar with what happened in Nigeria, the biggest oil producing country in Africa, involving the Dutch oil company (Shell), the people of Nigeria as represented by the people of Ogoniland and the activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. The standard of living of the people of Nigeria is the same as those African countries that are not ‘blessed’ with oil. It falls in the category of countries with a Gross National Product (GNP) per capita of below USD 545. In contrast, I am also sure that we are all familiar with how another African oil producing country, Libya, utilised the revenue from its oil to develop its country. The standard of living of the people of Libya is one of the highest in Africa, falling in the category of countries with a GNP per capita of between USD 2,200 and USD 6000.

China’s thirst for Africa’s oil can only be a blessing to Africa if Africa leaders grow up, take the destiny of Africa in their hands and set the agenda for their engagement with China. Most importantly, African governments need to wake up to the realisation that it is their responsibility to develop Africa. Otherwise, China’s thirst will be quenched, the African leaders will be blessed with personal wealth and the people of Africa will, as usual, be cursed. Uganda is one of the African countries in which oil deposits have been discovered. So far, government discussion has hinged on how quickly we extract the oil and sell it. Very little or no attention is given on what and on how the Government of Uganda intends to utilise the revenue from the oil. A starting point would be the establishment of a national investment fund supervised by a Swiss banker!

Norah Owaraga is Advisor to Executive Director, Uganda Change Agent Association

Friday, January 18, 2008

Kenya's Kibaki sheds gentleman image

NAIROBI (Reuters) - When President Mwai Kibaki was inaugurated on December 30, 2002, a million Kenyans thronged a city park to hail him as savior after 24 years of repressive rule.

Five years later, he was hurriedly sworn in, watched by a few close aides, on the lawn of his heavily guarded residence, as smoke rose from protests in nearby slums.

The contrasting ceremonies mirror Kibaki's changed reputation both inside and outside Kenya after his disputed re-election and tough handling of the turmoil afterwards.

"Sorry for the cliches, but the popular 'reformist president' is beginning to look a bit more like an old-fashioned African strongman these days," one Nairobi-based diplomat said.

There was nationwide euphoria when Kibaki beat the party of authoritarian former President Daniel arap Moi in 2002.

Though some Kenyans later became disillusioned over issues like corruption, there was still respect for a man regarded as a gentleman, statesman and "Mzee" -- Swahili for respected elder -- above the messy fray of daily politics.

Now, however, Kibaki has turned into a hate figure for many who believe he stole the December 27 presidential vote and is crushing protests with brutality.

The man with a penchant for P.G. Wodehouse novels and a round of golf at the colonial-era Muthaiga Club, who was previously often satirized as a genial but bumbling leader, has shown unexpected steel in facing the crisis.

After swearing himself in within minutes of being declared winner from a hotly-contested vote count, Kibaki, 76, has gone on to outlaw public demonstrations, put hardliners in his cabinet, deploy riot police daily, and ban live TV broadcasts.

"We are seeing a creeping regression to the totalitarian methods of the past," said Kenyan columnist Macharia Gaitho.

"The government is going out of its way to curb the inherent rights of the people to associate, express themselves, communicate and assemble."

Not so, cry Kibaki supporters, who say opposition leader Raila Odinga is forcing the government to take tough action by whipping up civil disobedience and ethnic massacres.


Diplomats are beginning to ask if Kibaki is following in the footsteps of others -- like Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, or Yoweri Museveni of Uganda -- whose authoritarianism cut short their early status as favorites of the West.

Kibaki opened up the economy, which stagnated under Moi, to achieve average annual growth of five percent, and ended many restrictions on free expression. He was also seen as a reliable Western ally against al Qaeda.

But question-marks that began emerging towards the end of his first term, when, for example, police controversially raided a newspaper office, are now seen as an early warning signal.

"He risks going down as the president who squandered the opportunities of the post-Moi democratization in Kenya, even though he was the one who first enabled them," said Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential newsletter.

"The old stereotype of the genial but weak leader surrounded by bad people does not fit any more. That image was gradually chipped away. Then events since December 30 finished the process."

Analysts point out, however, that Kibaki has still led from the shadows during the crisis rather than become a dominant frontman like, say, Meles or Museveni.

And U.S. ambassador Michael Ranneberger was adamant that comparisons made by Kibaki's most strident critics with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe were wrong.

"Kenya is nowhere near anything like Zimbabwe so such comparisons are completely beyond the point," he said.

Still, there is a mounting chorus of criticism from Kenyan rights groups and activists who say Kibaki staged a "civilian coup" and is looking increasingly dictatorial.

"The decline into a police state has been so swift and so organized that one can be forgiven for thinking that some within the government may have actually anticipated the chaos," said lawyer Karim Anjarwalla in Nairobi.

Kibaki faces early tests of his international standing.

First, he is due at an African Union (AU) summit at the end of January, where it is not clear how fellow heads-of-state will treat him. Uganda, Swaziland, Morocco, Somalia and Egypt are the only African nations to recognize Kibaki so far.

Then there are threats in the air by Western powers to cut direct aid. But as Kenya gets less than five percent of its budget that way, the impact would be largely symbolic.

Some who know Kenya well say that rather than a dramatic transformation in the last three weeks, Kibaki is in fact only showing qualities he has hidden for decades.

As a legislator in every parliament since 1963 independence, Kibaki has exhibited plenty of political guile and strength during a career that includes a decade as vice-president for Moi -- the man with whom he was seen as representing a clean break.

And while he belatedly benefited from the advent of multi-party politics in the 1990s, critics remember his comments in previous years likening those seeking to end one-party rule to daydreamers trying to fell a tree with a razor blade.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Don't Ignore the Violence in Kenya


It's been nearly two weeks since the Electoral Commission of Kenya declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner in his bid for a second term. The loser in this closely fought and much disputed election is Raila Odinga, the candidate of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). The declaration threw Kenya into the current crisis -- street protests, wide-spread civil unrest and the threat of violent crackdowns -- which refuses to end.

The commission may have legitimate reasons for ushering out both the local and international press before making its announcement exclusively on the state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. There also may be legitimate reasons why the subsequent and much hurried swearing-in ceremony for Mr. Kibaki has already taken place.

But given the messy performance of the electoral commission, many people are wondering whether there was something to hide. Some of its members have admitted to being under tremendous pressure to announce the results even as some found credible reports of irregularities. This has cast doubt over the credibility of the democratic process.

To people conversant with the political games of intrigue and trickery, however, what's happening in Kenya is just another instance of the challenges to real democracy that bedevil this region. In the eyes of some politicians, the misfortune is that the irregularities have come to light. Under "normal circumstances," leaders in Africa don't lose elections they organize.

I have heard it said by some political veterans that if you're not willing to play these games, you have no business being in politics, since you're bound to lose. It is on the altar of this kind of cynicism that values like transparency, honesty and accountability are often sacrificed. Within this worldview, bribing voters, election officials and government officers, as well as theft and manipulation of votes, are considered "political wisdom."

After the very high voter turnout in the Dec. 27 elections among Kenyans rightfully choosing their next government, it's tragic that Kenya -- a country I thought could provide a model of peaceful transfer of power in Africa -- has been plunged into the sort of senseless bloodletting that the outside world all too often associates with my continent. Despite the insistence by some of the protagonists that outside intervention is not required, more public and international pressure is essential if Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga are to seek a lasting solution. Despite the suffering of the Kenyan people, and others in the region that depend on Kenya's functioning infrastructure and economy, moves toward dialogue have been disturbingly slow.

Colonial administrators and the leaders who followed them have used ethnicity as a major strategy to divide their people. In countless conflicts in Africa, the uncompromising positions of such leaders -- refusing to consider mediation or to make any concessions -- have led to unimaginable suffering.

Under this mindset, fellow tribesmen support their respective leaders no matter what -- even when they are the first victims of the leaders' actions, or inaction. Eventually, even these leaders lose control and anarchy takes over, with rival gangs stealing, raping, maiming and punishing civilians.

Mr. Kibaki has now sworn in half of this new government's cabinet, even after being urged not to do so before holding talks with Mr. Odinga on resolving the crisis. Mr. Kibaki's move may lead to another round of ethnically based violence -- which already has taken the lives of hundreds of Kenyans. Both Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga have appealed publicly to those causing the mayhem to stop, but few seem to be heeding the call.

Unfortunately, much of the advice Mr. Kibaki is getting from ministers, and Mr. Odinga from advisers, seems to urge that each maintain his hard-line position. Many of these advisers and ministers are thinking ahead to the privileged positions that they assume they will receive with their candidate in power. This is making it very difficult for men and women of goodwill in Kenya to broker a lasting peace.

For the sake of the people of Kenya, the East African region and indeed Africa in general, I appeal to the international community, including the African Union, the Commonwealth, the European Commission, the United Nations and other friends of Kenya like the United States and Japan, to put strong pressure on Messrs. Kibaki and Odinga -- before this crisis escalates into an even greater tragedy.

The leaders must put the welfare of Kenyans before their own ambitions, and enter immediately into a serious and sustained dialogue for a political and legal settlement.

Ms. Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate, was a member of Kenya's Parliament from 2002 to 2007.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Zimbabweans Contemplate Kenya's ODM Model

By Rejoice Ngwenya

The nightmarish quagmire of Kenya's deadly electoral circus has filtered shock waves of potential civic uprising to Zimbabwe, a country facing its own elections this March, having known no real ballot peace since 2000. We Africans tend to pick political bad habits from neigbhours because as it is, Zimbabweans are contemplating using the 'Odinga Model' to reverse Robert Mugabe's inevitable electoral fraud.

The Kikuyu, like our Shona in Zimbabwe, have always wanted to forever dominate national polity. In the first election in 1980, they hogged the ballot box, and Mugabe, like Kenyatta, has exploited this dominance in subsequent contests. Kikuyu, like Shona, are the majority who never want to share real power with ethnic minorities. Thus, the coalition that propelled Kibaki to stardom five years ago was a marriage of convenience in which, like Zimbabwe's Joshua Nkomo, Odinga was deceived. To say Daniel arap Moi defied the odds and elevated Kalenjins would be a denial that he was as much a compromise surrogate of Jomo Kenyatta as Joshua Nkomo's so called vice presidency that never gave the Ndebele tribe a bite of Zimbabwe's political cake. For Mugabe now, the chickens are about to come home to roost because typical African politics is that when the tribal war has been won, ethnicity takes centre-stage.

Robert Mugabe's ZANUpf party presents an illusion of a formidable solid political machinery, yet the ageing dictator has always used a combination of intimidation, mutual distrust and blackmail to smother potential intra-party competition between Zezurus, Karangas and Manyikas - the ethnic groupings that largely constitute ZANUpf's Shona tribe. Zimbabwe's commerce, industry, quasi-government and academic sector follows these distinct ethnic patterns that reflect the country's balance of political power. Since Mugabe himself is Zezuru, it is 'natural' that most blue chip companies are managed and owned, like Kenya's Kikuyu, by Zezurus affiliated to ZANUpf's political centre. This is necessary because Mugabe needs to finance his empire with money he can trust.

The cronies have become so dependent that they, since 1980, have done everything to sustain his ambitions in exchange for lucrative government tenders. During the last Extra Ordinary Congress in December 2007, these 'crony corporates' fell over each other to finance expensive advertisements to support Mugabe's unprecedented seventh term presidential bid. The crony corporates have accumulated so many favours that if any of them so much as tries to express an opposing political opinion, Mugabe pulls the life support plug.

Mutumwa Mawere and James Makamba, early beneficiaries of Mugabe's benevolence, got excited about diverse political opinion and the retribution was instant. Mawere lost the war and is now operating his African Resources Limited from Sandton City in Johannesburg while James Makamba, a business associate of current vice president Joyce Mujuru escaped imprisonment by a hair's breadth, and subsequently lost his controlling shares in Tele Cel after fleeing to London.

The Karangas who generally hail from the south-eastern part of Zimbabwe have always been the intellectual entity of not only Zimbabwe as a whole, but also ZANUpf as a party. The late political icon Edison Zvobgo was the brains behind ZANUpf's legal affairs, having not only participated in crafting the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, but was also credited with altering Zimbabwe's constitution in 1990 to give Mugabe executive presidential powers that transformed him into an infamous dictator. Many positions of academic excellence in universities, colleges and state institutions have been parcelled to Karangas by Mugabe as a token of appreciation for Edison Zvobgo' s life-long support of dictatorship. The Karanga entity equally dominated the national army for decades, a chain reaction that started with Josiah Magama Tongogara who ran ZANUpf's liberation military command in Mozambique but died in a mysterious 'road accident' a few hours before Zimbabwe's independence. Political analysts have long advanced the theory of appeasement - that it was necessary for Mugabe to keep the Karangas busy in the army so as to divert their interest from 'real' politics.

Herbert Chitepo, Mugabe and ZANU's first barrister and party co-founder, was a Manyika, the group that hails from Zimbabwe's eastern province. His ascendancy was cut short in the mid-seventies in [another] mysterious car bomb in Zambia. Since then, Mugabe has kept the Manyika very close to the political centre, with perennial praise-singer Didymus Mutasa floating in between undefined cabinet positions, and credited with Zimbabwe's violent land reform program. In appreciation of both Chitepo and Mutasa' s allegiance, president Robert Mugabe strengthened the influence of Manyika in the banking sector, while so-called presidential hopeful Simba Makoni was given a position as the first Secretary General of Southern African Development Community in the 1980's.

Now, the political dynamics have changed. In March 2008, Robert Mugabe faces an ethnic rebellion in his ZANUpf. The Karanga, led by Emmerson Mnangagwa who was implicated not only in the 1980s Matebeleland genocide, but also blood diamond scams in Democratic Republic of Congo, have been conspiring with the late Joshua Nkomo's young brother, John, in a strong alliance to neutralise Mugabe. The notorious secret service sensed signals of this alliance largely by tracking Professor Jonathan Moyo's loud recitals in the last election, and inevitably, Mugabe rattled a few skeletons in Mnangagwa cabinet. The current vice president, Joyce Mujuru, is leading another Zezuru faction that is desperate to check Mugabe's seventh term bid and headlines in recent independent press stories align this faction with Simba Makoni' s Manyika ethnic grouping.

Dr Simba Makoni has been flouted as a more credible presidential candidate because he is not contaminated with ZANUpf's violent history, and there have been allegations that opposition MDC factions of Morgan Tsvangirayi and Arthur Mutambara consider him a good compromise. If all these reports are accurate, ethnic tribal politics are just the gunpowder that Zimbabweans, like Kenyans, require for resistance, but not necessarily in the scale of Kenya's barbaric sectarian violence.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Are elections in Africa really necessary or a waste of time?


ELECTIONS, IF MERELY FOR their own sake, are a waste of time in Africa, and nowhere else has this been demonstrated more than in Kenya.
The recent polls have been roundly condemned by election-monitoring bodies. Observers from the European Union said that the whole process was “not credible” and the report they issued on the exercise was the most damning it had ever issued anywhere in the world.
As Kenyans and the international community grapple with the crisis, the question they should now be asking themselves with some urgency is: “What now?”

The elections represented a big step backwards in the Government’s ostensible efforts to match economic reforms with democratic openness and respect for basic rights.
Kenya’s Western partners should not be idle bystanders. Instead they should be willing to condition non-humanitarian aid and security co-operation on clear evidence of reform, including the impartial investigation and prosecution of politicians suspected of subsidising recent election and post-election violence, and committed serious electoral malpractices.

From the polls, we now know that democracy is not a panacea. Some elements of the deficit of democracy should have been put to the test long ago.

Democracy is just a governing system. It might be one of the best, but it does not automatically solve all problems. In fact it probably does the opposite; most major problems must be solved before democracy can work.

From the polls, we have learnt that there is yet to be fair, free and transparent elections in Africa; it is just a waste of money and other resources.

African leaders hate to be called “former head of state”, and once they taste power, they think the country belongs to them. Then arrogance, disdain and authoritarianism take their course as the means to hanging on to power.

But what is the root cause of the problem? Prof Donald Kagan in Pericles of Athens and The Birth of Democracy, says that a successful democracy is based on more than elections.

He maintains that an examination of the few successful democracies in history suggests that they need to meet three conditions if they are to flourish.

The first is to have a good set of institutions.

The second is to have a body of citizens who possess a good understanding of the principles of democracy, and who have developed a character consistent with the democratic way of life.

The third is to have a high quality of leadership, at least in critical moments. Until the above has been fulfilled, the struggle for democracy will continue.

TWENTIETH CENTURY HISTORY IS littered with the remains of elections that brought forth neither democracy nor the rule of law.

The entire Soviet empire was enamoured of show elections in which every citizen was given the privilege of voting for the winner — and only the winner.

Fascist and corporatist regimes would routinely invoke the plebiscite to crown the claimed rule of the people, a tool used by Hitler to consolidate power in the 1930s.

Post-colonial regimes in countries such as the Central African Republic, or more recently, Zimbabwe, would hold elections only to see the victors proclaim themselves rulers for life.

Before any election is held, there must be ground rules that determine what elections are for, and formal institutional structures that will be filled by the elections.

But what justifies those rules? The answer can only be given retrospectively, based on the success of the democratic experiment itself.

All democracies enter this world with this so-called democratic deficit — a system preordained by no particular democratic process.

British philosopher John Stuart Mill may have had a case like Kenya in mind when he wrote that political liberalism was impossible in a country with ethnic or national divisions.

He wrote: “Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist.”

Over the past years, the need to secure democratic order in countries fractured by racial, ethnic or religious cleavages like Kenya has robbed us of the easy assumption that democracy can take hold in raven societies.

Democracy, then, is ultimately not about the ability to elect rulers; it is about the ability to send them packing. The political tragedy of post-colonial Africa is not the absence of elections; it is the inability to vote rulers out of office.

Whether an election is a harbinger of democracy is best addressed in hindsight once the security of the minorities is assessed and once the first elected rulers face retrospective accountability before the electorate.